As you read in the title, this week was my first week of classes at CIEE. While the past two weeks I had intensive Czech every day, this week marked the first week I had so-called Area Studies courses. While we still have Czech twice a week (8:50am Monday and Wednesday for me. Talk about freshman year all over again.), our other classes are now more of the focus of the program. I am taking two classes at CIEE: Art and Architecture of Prague and the History of Jews in Bohemia and Central Europe. In addition to those classes, I am taking Globalization and Recent Economic Developments, both at Charles University. Those classes start next week however. A neat thing about my CIEE classes is that, while they are two days a week, one day is spent in the classroom learning theory, while the second day is usually spent out in Prague experiencing the Jewish history or getting a glimpse of the architectural styles first hand. Our first ‘out’ class for Art and Architecture was Wednesday and we got to tour the inside of the famous Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square. Additionally, we went under the Old Town Hall to see the homes from the 11th and 12th century built on the original level of the city (During the reign of Charles IV, for whom the Charles Bridge is named, the king was wary of the flooding of the Vltava River that runs through town, so he ordered everyone to build up. As a result, what appears to be street-level now is actually 10s of meters above the original street level. Flooding has still been a recent problem however.) The Art and Architecture class is going to be pretty neat, but many of the people in class ask questions that shouldn’t be asked, either the answers are on the syllabus or it’s a personal question that could wait until the end of class.
In my Jewish class, we have yet to have an ‘out’ class, but the interesting story with this class is the teacher. His name is Rabbi Ron, and he is the only Conservative rabbi in the Czech Republic or in the five countries surrounding it. He is also the only rabbi in the country that was born Jewish. Every other rabbi converted. He’s from Chicago by way of New Jersey. Also, he counts the current US Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Norm Eisen, as a congregent. We may even get to have dinner with him. This class is also interesting because there are exchange students from Shanghai and the University of Luxembourg in it. They will, no doubt, add an interesting perspective to the issues discussed in class.
Well, that’s all for now, my lovely girlfriend is in town and we’re off to tour the Jewish Quarter!